Photograph of Judge's gavel by Bill Oxford
The BC Supreme Court has ruled that a couple on Salt Spring Island is not legally responsible for a fatal crash that left one teen dead and another severely injured.
In September of 2012, the youths had been at a party at the home of Stephen and Lidia Pearson where teens under the legal drinking age were permitted to consume alcohol.
Early in the morning on September 16th of 2012, one of the teens died when a 1992 Subaru went off North End Road on Salt Spring Island and crashed.
The other teen suffered life-altering injuries and now requires continuing care.
The survivor took the Pearsons to court in an effort to hold them liable for the accident in what is often referred to as “social host liability”.
In his ruling, BC Supreme Court Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson writes that as the hosts, the parents had to take all reasonable steps to minimize the risks of harm to their guests, including the plaintiff.
Hinkson says the Pearson’s’ plan to take keys from anyone who might try to drive after drinking, and offering rides to those who had no safe way of leaving the party was successful in avoiding reasonably foreseeable harm to their guests.
Chief Justice Hinkson states: “The standard is one of reasonableness, not perfection.”
The two teenagers had arrived at the party on foot and left the same way. The vehicle they were in later had been stolen from a nearby property.
The lawyer for the teen argued the Pearson’s are subject to a “higher standard of care” because they chose to host a party that allowed consumption of alcohol by minors.
However, Chief Justice Hinkson states that he “cannot accept that this fact alone demands a higher standard of care.”
In this ruling, Hinkson says the couple can only be liable if permitting underage teenagers to consume alcohol on their property and then letting them leave on foot had been the cause of the injuries.